End-of-life communication refers to the exchange of information and dialogue between healthcare professionals and patients or their families regarding the patient's prognosis, treatment options, and end-of-life goals and preferences. Effective end-of-life communication is essential for ensuring that patients receive high-quality care that is consistent with their values and preferences and can help to reduce patient suffering and improve quality of life.
The following are some key considerations for allied health professionals when engaging in end-of-life communication:
- Building rapport and establishing trust: Building a relationship with patients and families is essential for effective end-of-life communication. This can involve active listening, demonstrating empathy, and being transparent about one's role and the information being shared.
- Addressing sensitive topics: End-of-life conversations can be emotionally challenging, and it is important for allied health professionals to approach these topics with sensitivity and respect. This may involve using appropriate language, having some conversation starters, providing adequate time for patients and families to ask questions, and being responsive to their needs and concerns. Some sample case studies on communication strategies for sensitive topics have been collated by the Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin, to support practice.
- Providing accurate and up-to-date information: It is important for allied health professionals to have a good understanding of the patient's prognosis and treatment options, and to communicate this information clearly and accurately. This can help patients and families make informed decisions about their care.
- Collaborating with interdisciplinary teams: Effective end-of-life communication often requires collaboration between multiple healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals. Good methods of communication between the team is essential in facilitating collaboration between these different stakeholders.